February 27, 2013
The Fall from Innocence in A Separate Peace The one thing that separates an adult from a child is innocence. In the novel A Separate Peace, John Knowles uses the archetypal Fall from Innocence in order to embody Leper’s philosophy “Everything has to evolve unless it perishes.” In this story Knowles expresses how one must move on to adulthood, by losing their innocence. He demonstrates this theme through the characters Finny, Gene, and Leper.
John Knowles uses the archetype of the fall from Innocence in order to embody the quote “Everything has to evolve or else it perishes" In the character of Gene. In the novel, Gene addresses Finny saying "You always win at sports” (7). You can sense jealousy from Gene. This was said before the incident on the tree. Here gene keeps his jealousy bottled up inside. His feelings explode the day both boys are on the tree, as Gene loses control and makes finny fall. Gene restates "Finny, his balance gone, swung his head around, to look at me for an instant with extreme interest" (60). This is an explanation of Finny’s reaction when he was falling off the tree. After the incident Gene tries to deny what really happened by allowing himself to believe it was not him but something else that made Finny fall. After being accused, and having to see Finny suffer from Gene’s wrongdoing and betrayal, he confesses out of guilt. Gene says “I deliberately jounced the branch so you would fall off." After a short argument between Gene and Finny, Finny ends with "Don't worry about it" (71). Gene confesses, but Finny ignores it out of denial. If Finny did accept the fact that his best friend made him fall, he would have to accept not everyone is innocent, not even his best friend. Gene at first would not admit to himself that he intentionally pushed the tree because it could jeopardize their friendship. After Gene’s confession, he realized how much harm he has put on Finny, and their friendship. The archetype of the Fall from Innocence is expressed in Gene by his innocence being taken away from his own actions.
John Knowles expresses the archetype of fall of innocence in Finny in different means. When Gene comes to visit and confess to Finny, Finny looks back on the incident on the tree and says "I did have this idea, this feeling that when you were standing there beside me, why I don’t know," Finny explained (66). Shortly after, he apologizes saying "I’m sorry about that feeling I had" (66). This quote explains Finny’s true feelings on the incident on the tree, and his idea that it was Genes fault. Finny knows what happened; He knows that Gene intentionally made him fall off the tree. But he denies it, and even feels bad for thinking that. Finny’s innocence is also threatened when the other boys at Devon begin to change from boys to men. Finny confronts himself by saying there is no war, and believing something different than what others think, when in reality Finny denies the war because he can no longer be a part of it. From here, Finny reaches his downfall. Through all of the drama, Finny finds a way to remain in denial. And he loses his innocence by refusing to see guilt in his friend Gene, and being unable to realize reality. Finny continues to deny the truth because if he accepts it, this means it would not only prove not everyone is innocent.
John Knowles using the archetype fall of innocence to demonstrate Leper. Leper starts off as a focused student and interested in skiing and the world and war around him. Gene states “Leper stands out as the person who was most often and most emphatically taken